The following is a post I wrote in 2008. I feel it’s important to share it again, because the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Over the years we’ve been challenged quite a bit on brand. “I don’t believe in this branding crap…vision, mission, values…it’s all fluff!”
The comment is all too common. The ironic thing is after viewing most of our clients’ visions, missions and positioning statements, they’re right. The statements are chalk full of “marketing” fluff. It’s as though everyone downloaded the same statements off the internet.
For those who feel vision/mission/position/values are fluff, they are absolutely right. If they don’t believe in their brand and in the promise their brand is to deliver, then why would their employees? Why would their customers?
On the other hand, for those who agree brand is a relationship guided by mission, differentiated by position, and driven by value—then wouldn’t they agree it’s critically important to understand what practices assist in the process?
Brand creates and secures future earnings by growing customer preference and loyalty in the present.
Yes it’s true brand is an intangible asset, and as such it’s perceived to be more difficult to gauge ROI; however, if the ultimate goal is to engage happy customers and develop ongoing business, brand is actually quite easy to measure when you think about it. If revenue isn’t trending upward then you are probably doing a shitty job at effectively communicating and delivering the value of your brand.
What is it about today’s most effective brands that puts them so far above their competition?
What can you learn to implement in your business that will enable you to set yourself apart from your competition?
Digging deep in the Urban Jungle vaults, I found 7 key practices employed by leading brands. In doing so, they are able to drive considerable ROI from their branding investment.
1. They continuously meet and often exceed customer expectations.
Highly effective brands deliver value and they provide high quality products or services designed with the customer in mind (imagine that!). Their ultimate goal is to make their customers’ lives easier and more enjoyable. Ideally, the brand fulfills a previously unmet need, which requires focus and investment in innovation. Apple and RIM are adherents to this practice. Both are relentlessly focused on putting the next great tool in the hands of their customers.
2. They rigorously remain relevant.
Highly effective brands ensure their ongoing relevance within their defined audiences. This involves rigorous segmentation to understand what are the most financially attractive segments and who is apt to be a brand evangelist and spread the word. This requires the brand to tailor its message to these segments with a compelling “value proposition.” Therefore execution is key and messaging must be more creative in order to cut through the current communication clutter.
3. They price impeccably.
Highly effective brands are able to price their products/services in a way that captures their customers’ attention and their perception of value. Of course, companies invest in brand in order to achieve a premium over similar offers, which remains a key objective. In order to accomplish this, leading brands make a direct link between price and the intangible benefits of communicating exclusivity in order to justify the premium.
BMW is a perfect example of effective brand pricing. The brand is linked to “performance” and as a result, loyal BMW customers perceive differential value versus competing offers.
4. They are flexible.
Current practice involves how to approach brand consistency. Traditionally it is thought a brand must be 100% consistent in communication and execution in order to achieve broad recognition. We disagree. Highly effective brands are more flexible in their communications approach than their competitors.
At Urban Jungle we like to refer to this as the “70/30 Rule” whereby the brand is consistent in large part but allows for customization to address language, culture, buying behaviour, and communication channels.
Ten years ago every single McDonald’s restaurant would largely have had the same retail design. Now, there is much more flexibility in format. As an example, in Paris the locations are more café-like with a wide coffee menu and chairs, which are not bolted to the floor. In Tokyo, the menu includes shrimp burgers. In Quebec they have Poutine.
5. They are extremely proactive.
It may sound cliché but the most effective brands never rest, nor do they allow the market or the competition to define who they are, what they believe, and what makes them consistently
unique. Instead they employ best practices to ensure their ongoing leadership.
6. They have accurate self perception.
Highly effective brands ensure all employees, prior to making any claims in the market, understand the brand promise. It is, after all, the employee’s responsibility to deliver on the promise. In many average to less than average companies, employees are the last to know, or learn about their own brand strategy through external advertising at the same time as prospective customers.
Progressive companies on the other hand use brand as their central organizing principle in order to guide employee decision and action, providing rules about what is “on-brand” and what is “off-brand.” These companies review employee performance against the brand strategy and values tying results to compensation and other rewards.
7. They manage brand as a long-term asset.
Highly effective brands continuously measure the drivers of brand value and make management decisions based on performance within those metrics. They clearly recognize brands are not merely logos or tag lines or short-term advertising campaigns. Rather, they are fundamental drivers of the company’s economic performance. Though employed by significant global players, these practices are applicable to all brands regardless of size, industry, and reach; and can help management unlock further potential for mind-, market-, and wallet-share.
Tools and channels will come and go, but brand will always be relevant.